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Should a Cesar Chavez Site be Added to the National Park System?


Reuther Hall, Forty Acres, is one of the sites being considered in the study. NPS photo.

Should a site "significant to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement in the western United States" be added to the National Park System? The NPS is now seeking your comments, and public meetings on the possibility are being held in six locations in coming days.

The meetings and request for written comments are part of a Congressionally-directed "special resource study" of potential sites associated with the farm labor leader and movement in the West.

In case your history is a bit rusty, a summary of the study notes, "Cesar Chavez is recognized as the most important U.S. Latino leader of the twentieth century. During the 1960s, Chavez led a movement of thousands of farmworker families and their supporters as they created the nation's first permanent agricultural labor union."

Special resource studies don't always result in new sites being added to the NPS, and a variety of options are being considered. They include:

•   ongoing management by the current public or private owners;

•   technical assistance to property owners who wish to recognize the work of Cesar Chavez and the farmworker movement on land they own (for example, assistance in preservation techniques, public information, education, or other services);

•   listing of historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places;

•   educational or community service programs;

•   NPS management of one or more sites, for example as a national historical park;

•   NPS coordination of a historic trail or tour route.

What locations might be included in such a site?

The NPS has developed a preliminary list of significant sites, "including the Forty Acres and Filipino Community Hall properties in Delano, CA; Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz in Keene, CA; the Santa Rita Center in Phoenix, AZ; and the 1966 march route from Delano to Sacramento.  Additional significant sites can be found throughout California and Arizona in major cities and agricultural communities."

Between Monday, May 9 and Tuesday, May 24, public meetings are being held in six locations in California and Arizona. You'll find a list of meeting sites, dates and times at this link.

If you'd like to weigh in on the discussion, you don't have to attend one of these meetings; you'll find contact information for comments by U. S. Mail or e-mail at this site, or you can submit comments on-line.

You'll find some basic information to help you make an informed comment in a newsletter about the project. The deadline for all comments for this phase of the study is May 27, 2011.

You'll have a second chance to weigh in on this idea later this year. A draft study report is expected to be published for public review and comment in the fall of 2011, and a final report will then be transmitted to Congress by the end this year.

The purpose of the current study is to evaluate the areas in question "to determine whether they are eligible to be designated as a unit of the national park system, and to consider a range of options for preservation and public visitation." The debate over the financial feasibility of a possible new NPS site will come later during Congressional hearings, if the study recommends that such a site be established.

That said, it will be interesting to see if the current fiscal woes at all levels of government play into the discussion for possible NPS involvement in this, and other, potential new park areas. Is this an idea whose time has come, irrespective of budget constraints? Time will tell.


In an effort to be succinct, NO.  For that matter any site designated to one person's achievements (good or bad) should  be eliminated from NPS authority.  That's what state parks are for.  Kinda.  But this manner of "honor" has no place in the context of the national park service.

The fact that you had to ask the question the way you did says  "no".  If there is a historical site worthy of  NPS status and it happens to be related to Cesar Chavez - then fine.  But to state the goal has establishing a NPS unit in Cesar Chavez's name and then going out to find a suitable site is clearly contrary to the intent of the NPS system.

There are some NPS units where site selection was probably an idea looking for a home. Take for instance Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. I believe it started out as an idea, but with a question of what area would best represent the idea. I'm not sure how they settled on the former shipyards of Richmond, California.

Dr King, I guess is special, they want to Honor him in Washington DC.  Part of that area is National Park.

Of course it should be added! Cesar deserves all of the recognition and honor we can bestow upon him - even posthumously. He was an icon of the American Labor Movement and his contributions to Labor in general and to promoting fair Labor practices and positive ideology towards farm-workers in particular as well as his embracing and advocating non-violent resistance for the expression of grievances have assured him of a permanent and revered place in U.S. Labor History.


If those were the criteria for establishing a NPS unit, I would agree.  But they're not.   And I would say the same about Rosie the Riveter if that is indeed how it happened.

Lone Hiker's suggestion would eliminate ~50 of the 475 named entities (not all
qualify as "units") in the NPS, and that's not counting Theodore
Roosevelt, De Soto, Wright Brothers, national trails, parkways, or other
places with significant natural resources or honoring 2 or more

I see things a bit differently than ecbuck: of those 50+ person-specific sites, many are presidential birthplaces & such, but there's
more than a handful where the person and not the location was the driver for establishment: Benjamin Franklin National Historic Park, Booker T. Washington National
Monument, Francis Scott Key Memorial, Thaddeus Kosciuszko National
Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site (in Georgia).

Culture (and thus cultural parks as opposed to natural resource parks) are about often about people and not places.  In the process of getting a ballpark number about the scope of Lone Hiker's suggestion, I now know a little bit about Clara Barton, David Berger,  Maggie L. Walker, and Thomas Stone, and would understand a lot more about them and their eras and areas if I actually visited those NPS sites.

As a Californian who grew up driving past fields in the Salinas & Central valleys, I value and understand a bit about Cesar Chavez' role and importance to our culture, and support establishing CECH as a monument, memorial, or trail.

Chavez is undoubtedly a world hero, and he deserves some sort of national recognition.  But to add yet another little-known and low-visitation unit complete with all the lifetime costs of a unit (another superintendent, another maintenance department,  etc.) is not the answer - especially in light of a huge maintenance backlog.  How much is it costing to fund this study?  I say we put up a statue of him, on the national mall where millions can see him in a rightful place in U.S. History...but paid for by corporations, donations and grants.  I'd be happy to add to that fund.  Unfortunately, I think that this, like most other NPS special "studies," has already been decided.

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